What if humans are all just pawns in a clever strategy game masterminded by corn? In this video, author Michael Pollan asks you to see things from a plant‘s-eye view -- to consider the possibility that nature isn‘t opposed to culture, and that biochemistry rivals intellect as a survival tool. By merely shifting your perspective, perhaps you can help heal the Earth. As food shortages and hunger crises loom on the horizon, I found Pollan’s speech -- and the ideas it represents -- to be a ray of hope. There is a reason why Joel Salatin, the farmer mentioned in the video, can easily call his farm Polyface “beyond organic.”
“We are in the redemption business,” it says on the farm’s homepage. “Healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.”
What a breath of fresh air.
Contrast that to the plague of modern agriculture, whose factory farms are among the worst polluters in the United States, and it’s easy to see how the future of our land and food supply lies in people who are willing to embrace the principles of permaculture.
What is Permaculture?
The Permaculture Institute puts it quite well. They define permaculture as an “ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.”
The word itself comes from “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture,” and at its foundation is developing agricultural and other systems that are interconnected and dependent on one another. In other words, they mimic the natural ecologies found in nature. The focus is not on any one element of the system, rather the focus is on the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat -- and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems.
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly more complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple,” said Bill Mollison, co-founder of the world-wide permaculture movement. And I couldn’t agree more.
What is Needed is a Return to Nature
Those of you who are new to the natural health scene may find it surprising that the modern food system is in danger of collapsing. The food system began its dramatic decline the second the world turned away from the farming practices of our ancestors, and began to attempt to outdo nature with technology.
Now, producing food on a massive scale at the lowest price possible has taken precedence over obeying the laws of nature. The system is pushing natural systems and organisms to their limit, forcing living creatures to function as machines.
Of course, “whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience,” Michael Pollan pointed out in Our Decrepit Food Factories.
Soon, the animals, and consequently your food supply, become unhealthy. The honeybees begin to get sick and die off. The bacteria prove that they can outwit man-made antibiotics, and create super-versions of themselves.
And as nature has shown us many times before, when you take away one part of this integrated, living system, things begin to crumble.
You may be wondering what you can do about all of this. Well, short of starting your own sustainable farm (which you can do on a small-scale in your own backyard), you can steer clear of foods that come from factory farms, and instead support sustainable agriculture movements in your area.
You can also stay informed and help to spread the word about the problems with the modern food system. Michael Pollan, for those of you who don’t know, is a New York Times author who has written extensively on this topic. He wrote the brilliant article about the perils of factory-farmed beef back in 2002, and he also published the book Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006, which is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the future of food.